News update from the Parish Council

Message from the Chair of the Council

Welcome to the first dedicated page of news from Westham (and Stone Cross) Parish Council.

Please bear in mind that as this is being written in early May during “lockdown” it may be out of date when received.

It is now a year since the new councillors took over – and what a year!

Last May without Parish Clerk or chairman to oversee the hand-over, the new Parish Council nearly collapsed.

We are now, however, pleased to report that the administration of the parish flourishes in the safe hands of our new clerk, and all procedures, policies, and finances are up to date and legal, all at a lower cost to the parish than previously.

At the end of January parish councillors met our MP, Hew Merriman, to enlist his support against the over development of Stone Cross and address our concerns about the lack of planning for infrastructure, (hospitals, doctors, schools and transport).Unfortunately, whilst he agreed that this area has taken more than its fair share of development, he was unwilling to challenge the Government’s housing figures and claimed infrastructure was not his responsibility. His offer of organising a meeting between himself, the District Councillors, and Parish Councillors could not be put in place before the lockdown so is unlikely to take place in the near future.

In February we discovered that whilst the new councillors were sorting out the parish administration, co-opting new councillors and recruiting a Parish Clerk, a petition to form a separate Stone Cross Parish Council had been raised without our knowledge. Justification was given as a lack of any Stone Cross representation on the Parish Council. As this was caused directly by the resignations of the reputed instigator, the ex-chairman of Westham Parish Council, along with the two other Stone Cross Councillors who were re-elected unopposed, this seems rather odd.

Unfortunately as the request has now been made, not only might it cost Wealden District Council up to £5,000 for a consultant, it might also cost each parish up to £12,000 for elections – public money which can be productively used elsewhere. There is also the cost of doubling up on the overheads when other councils are prudently amalgamating to save them.

As we now have six Stone Cross councillors on the Parish Council and we are all working together to the benefit of the area it would appear that the petition was not only ill-conceived but also premature.

Currently in Westham, thanks to our volunteers the water quality of the pond is now better than for many years, and they have done excellent work in clearing the perimeter. The Canada geese, ducks, and moorhens are producing offspring, we are pleased to observe a reduction in the bread being thrown, and trees have been cut back to reduce future maintenance and give a more open view. By June the flower baskets, removed by the previous council, should be reinstalled and give a bit of colour to the High Street.

We can now turn our total attention to the other end of the parish.

Remedial works have already improved the neglected drainage in Adur Park and elsewhere in Stone Cross and will continue, and we are working towards encouraging the Stone Cross Royals football team to return. A tree survey of the parish has been completed and after the bird nesting season we hope to progress a management plan for the Stone Cross area to reduce future maintenance. We will also be looking at installing more parish notice boards.

The Coronavirus emergency has highlighted that we inherited no base on which the present councillors could build a secure volunteer response. Instead, any phone calls to the parish office not intercepted by the parish clerk have been redirected to a phone manned by a councillor. Residents requiring assistance are then either directed to the Wealden Hub, which unlike ourselves can vet volunteers, or to a Parish councillor who can help . Unfortunately the ambition to get together with other organisations, along with Parish Council meetings, are currently on hold.

Meanwhile be assured, that despite all the impediments that we have encountered since the May election, we will carry on with the task of improving our parish.

Mike Haffner  Chairman of the Council